August 7, 2008

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Kelley McRae, Highrises in Brooklyn
Sona Blast Records, Aug. 19

For your Barnes & Noble chilling pleasure comes Kelley McRae, from New York by way of Michigan, another in the long line of untouchable, guitar-toting, quasi-sexual babes that started with Jewel and Tori Amos. Toward that, there are the quiet unplugged prerequisites (“Sparrow,” “Last Call Town”) oafishly emanating the skunkish stench of freshly roasted Cost Rican coffee beans, but McRae isn’t the busker Jewel used to be, though, more along the lines of Amos with a Joan Osborne side. The latter influence possesses her to ham it up atop a Baptist church piano flanked by a girl-group chorus (“More of Nothin’”), but if you really want a curve ball, this girl can bang out a Streisand imitation to die for (the synth-orchestra-saturated “Fall”). There’s some work to be done in the area of songwriting (the Rhodes-punctuated “Tomorrow” stubbornly resists indulging in a useful chorus, there but for the grace of hipness), and she’d be advised to avoid breathiness as she’s a dead ringer for Sarah McLachlan when she’s on about that. But promise does abound. B-Eric W. Saeger